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the preaching of Alexander, the bishop of Alexandria, on the mystery of 'the unity of the holy Trinity'.3 Alexander's doctrine prominently stressed Origen's teaching on the eternal generation of the Son from the Father. By contrast, the doctrine of Arius combined Origen's emphasis on the real distinctions within the Trinity with an unflagging insistence on the utter singularity of the one unoriginated and unbegotten God. Thus, while we can speak of a divine Trinity, only the first is truly and fully God. The unity of this Trinity, composed of unequal entities (hypostases) is one of will, rather than substance. This doctrine does not amount to a denial of the Son's divinity; rather, it endorses the framework of a graded hierarchy of transcendence in which it is possible to speak of variations in degree within the divine realm. Such a framework is operative in the thought of the Christian apologists of the second century and commonplace in Platonic metaphysics, which in the movement from Middle Platonism to Neoplatonism placed an increasingly emphatic stress on the remote transcendence of the first principle from lower levels of divinity.4 The fluidity of this model of divinity allowed Arius to balance scriptural attributions of divine honour to the Son with a strict interpretation of biblical monotheism. Given the demarcation between the unoriginate God and the creation that comes to be from nothing by divine will, the Son must be placed in the latter category. His generation from the Father is thus the first and highest instance of creaturehood. Following Origen's insistence that all creatures are changeable by nature and equipped with the freedom of moral self-determination, Arius contended that the Son also is changeable by nature. Yet, because of his foreseen merits, the Son was granted an unparalleled share of divine glory such that his divine status is a consequence of grace, rather than nature.

The controversy between Arius and Alexander was conditioned and exacerbated by factions within the Egyptian church dating back to the Diocle-tianic persecution, as well as by different styles of theological discourse within the Egyptian Christian tradition. But both the political unification under Constantine and the centrality to Christian teaching of the issues under discussion ensured that the controversy would quickly cross Egyptian boundaries and spread throughout the Roman empire. Constantine became sole emperor in 324 after defeating his Eastern rival, Licinus, and he quickly set about the task of redressing the threat to unity created by this ecclesial debate. A church council was held in Nicaea, in 325, attended by Arius and Alexander, as well

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